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Forward 50 2014

Jared Polis

At 39 and in only his third term in office, Jared Polis is already drawing attention in political circles, thanks to what a Politico profile of the Colorado Democrat called “too much self-confidence and too little self-awareness.”

But in his race to the top, the self-made millionaire whose Jewish parents were peace activists in the 1960s hasn’t let such criticism get to him. Polis has made clear this year that he is aiming for chairmanship of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee or for a congressional leadership position.

Polis, the first openly gay parent to serve in Congress, has devoted much of his legislative career to promoting progressive causes. But this year, the young congressman proved that he also understands politics. Polis originally sponsored a ballot initiative that could end fracking in his state, a $29 billion industry. But pressed by the Democratic Party, which feared heavy political backlash from angry oil companies, he compromised and withdrew the initiative. Progressive supporters disapproved, but for party leaders it was a sign that Polis is ready for prime time.

Polis made his fortune by founding and selling Internet companies; by the age of 25, he had already turned much of his attention to philanthropy, focusing on promoting educational programs. He has also donated to local and national Jewish organizations.

Ambition isn’t the only quality that has gained Polis attention in Congress. His signature outfit of a polo shirt and clip-on bowtie has been described as the “worst Congressional style ever.”

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